Getting my head around virtual learning

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Needless to say, I was nervous to start this semester. Like a lot of students, I’d hoped that the pandemic would be over by now and everything would be back to normal. So when Cardiff Uni announced most of its classes would be delivered virtually this semester, I naturally had a lot of questions:

  • How would I be able to complete my MA without any face-to-face learning?
  • Would my results be worse this year?
  • How  am I going to access all the learning materials I need when the access to campus is restricted?

Despite my earlier reservations, my first few weeks have put a lot of those worries to bed.

I consider myself as a bit of an organisation queen, so I thought I would share my typical day as a virtual MA student, and maybe there might be something in there that helps your days go a little bit smoother and also helps to quell those pre-semester worries.

My daily routine:

  • 9AM: Alarm time! One of the benefits of virtual teaching is that I don’t have to trek in with the wet Welsh weather. When we first switched to virtual lectures, I would wake up about 2 minutes before my Zoom meeting. Now Zoom is bit more of a permanent thing, I’m trying to be a bit more organised and so generally I’ll wake up an hour before to prepare, eat breakfast, check emails etc.
  • 10AM-11.45: Foundations in Theory Lecture
  • I usually log on a bit earlier than scheduled since Zoom can be a bit temperamental and I like to make sure my mic and camera are both working. I’ll be taking notes on my Mac while on the call, just as I normally would in my face-to-face lectures. A lot of my lecturers this year are recording their sessions, so if I’m unable to attend due to illness, I’m not too worried as I can catch up at a later date. I’ve also found that my lecturers will email us directly after our Zoom call to outline any tasks needing to be completed for next week.
  • 12PM: Lecture finished. From here, I’ll check over my notes, save any work and grab a snack/drink.
  • 2pm-3.45pm: Spectral Femininities Lecture. Again, this is held over Zoom and our lecturer shares their slides (which are later put on LC). Everything from our module guide to our required list is all uploaded to Learning Central and for those secondary texts, our librarians have uploaded scanned in copies for those than cannot visit the library in person. I can search for any of the required texts here: http://librarysearch.cf.ac.uk
  • 3.45pm onwards: The rest of my day is my own. As an English student, we have less contact hours than other subjects like Engineering or Medicine. Because of this, our extra time translates into ‘private study’. As a result, from 3.45pm-6pm I will generally read next week’s primary texts, annotate notes for any seminars and plan any ideas or concepts I might have for my MA Dissertation.
  • 6-6.30PM: After closing down my computer and shutting off everything, I like to have a small routine to mark the end of my work day and the transition into my free time. To do this, I generally go for a quick 20 minute run or a complete 10 minute meditation. Recently, I’ve been using Medito’s App since its free for all and has some great meditation packs on anxiety as well as some targeted towards the pandemic.
  • 7PM onwards: from this time, I’ll generally be cooking dinner and relaxing in front of the TV. Sometimes, I will get my computer back out and work on other projects like internships and work commitments. Though, I like to limit this to half an hour to an hour.

Weekends:

With apart time job on the weekends I have little time for uni work or for any other personal matters. While this does leave me a lot less time than other students, I do benefit from the extra income and the experience it affords. Because of the restricted time, I’ll put in extra effort in the week to complete any required work so that I don’t fall behind. This will generally be in-between lectures to ‘fill’ in the gaps.

Looking ahead

'Now that we're nearly at the end of our first semester (how?!). The switch from undergraduate to MA can always be a slight shock but I am finding keeping on top of my work each day works much better than leaving everything to the last minute.  I'm naturally feeling more calm about virtual learning and those pre-semester reservations have certainly cleared up. Instead, I'm feeling a greater sense of accomplishment for being able to have gotten through this turbulent period -- it's certainly going to be one to tell the kids when I'm older. For now, I'm looking forward to the next semester and to logging onto more Zoom meetings in January. Until then I hope that gives you a general idea of how I manage my time remotely. It isn’t the same as face to face but I am making the most out of it and finding ways of learning that work for me.

Hannah Gill | Masters in English Literature |@hannahgill01

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